Poland's PM gets US reassurances on military upgrade

Photo: www.wojsko-polskie.pl

The Polish government has been given assurances by the United States that it will help modernize the Polish army as part of a deal on locating a missile defense shield on Polish territory. This at least is part of the outcome of a visit to Washington last week by Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The visit described, even by some opposition politicians in Poland, as the government's "moderate success".

While the United States and the Czech Republic are putting the finishing touches to an agreement, Polish-US negotiations on hosting ten interceptor missile silos have dragged on and on. The four-months-old government of Donald Tusk seems to have adopted a tougher stand than its predecessor and Tusk made it clear to President Bush that Poland was ready to strike a deal only if it would really make Poland ‘safer’.

‘In our view, US installations in Poland without a modernization of the Polish armed forces and political guarantees of security would not make Poland safer. Our stand has met with approval.’

President George Bush pledged to draw a plan to help Poland upgrade its military before the end of his term.

‘The United States recognizes the need for Polish forces to be modernized. It’s important for our allies when they’re worried about the modernization of their forces that their friends respond and we are responding. Mr Prime Minister, before my watch is over we will have assessed these needs and come up with a modernization plan that’s concrete and tangible.’

No details have been given but it is believed that the stress will be put on upgrading Poland’s air defenses. According to political analyst Lukasz Warzecha of the daily Fakt, it is crucial that the US offer and Poland’s commitment to host the defense shield are part of the same package.

‘The most important thing is whether we have two agreements which will be closely tied together or whether we’ll have two separate agreements. As I understand there is now a consensus between the Washington administration and the Warsaw government that the modernization agreement and the missile shield agreement will be closely tied together. We’ll have something in exchange for something’.

President Lech Kaczynski, who met the prime minister before he went to Washington, is a staunch advocate of a close alliance with the United States. The outcome of the visit seems to be to the president’s liking. Head of his chancellery Anna Fotyga:

‘We favour an American presence in this part of Europe. It means stabilization and is a kind of equilibrium in our security. The President would like to see a part of the missile shield installation in Poland.’

It is surely a good thing that during his talks in Washington Mr Tusk spelled out Polish conditions and expectations in very clear terms. Most Polish analysts stress, however, that with the presidential elections in the United States later this year the final outcome of the Polish-US negotiations on the missile shield cannot be predicted.